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on 30 August 2002
Jeremy Paxman is a well known media figure, hosting the BBC's flagship evening current affairs show and compering that curiously English geek quiz show, University Challenge. On University Challenge, by dint of having the answers written on a card in front of him, Paxman creates the illusion of his own omniscience while brutally deriding the hapless nerd who should, as a starter for ten, incorrectly conjugate an irregular latin verb.
In the same spirit of feigned omniscience, he's dashed off this rangey discourse on the English. It's about as convincing; just as no-one thinks he really knows the answers on University Challenge all by himself, at no time reading this book are you fooled into thinking Paxman is any more expert a commentator on this fascinating subject than your average upper middle class English windbag.
He covers his ground erratically - a discussion of English eating habits lurches suddenly into an exposition on football violence - and extremely subjectively - Paxman divines the attributes which he believes are generally attributed to the English character without reference to anything more solid than his own (decidely university-educated and middle-class) impression, and rounds out his overview with an unconvincing collection of anecdotes, which don't represent the overwhleming proof of the points that he thinks they do. Irritatingly, in his final summation, Paxman seems to invoke an image of the real England (as a sort of green and pleasant land) which he has spent most of his book undermining.
Nor is the copy especially well written - occasionally, Paxman's syntax is just awful, and towards the end the sub-editor obviously wasn't paying much attention to cliches and repeated uses of the same expressions, sometimes within half a page or so of each other. Most people won't notice this, but it irritates the pants off me.
For all this it's a pretty jolly, harmless rant, and quite easy to get through.
But for real insight into national character I think it's always best to leave the analysis to an outsider. Interestingly, Paxman is dismissive of Bill Bryson, just such an author, who has done a similar job on this English, only with a lot more style.
Methinks the lady doth protest too much?
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on 8 February 2017
Well written
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on 11 February 1999
A personal and perceptive tour of all that Englishmen hold dear about their nationality. Not at all an easy thing to capture, but Jeremy Paxman has, with an astonishing amount of research, achieved it and this book is undoutedly a most deserving stable mate for that great classic THE ENGLISH COMPANION by Godfrey Smith.
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on 13 June 2000
This isn't the first paxman book I've read (I also enjoyed `Friends in High Places'. The beligerence he displayes on TV can frequently be wearing, but in the written medium it comes across as dedicated pursuit of the truth. A good read - amusing and scathing in equal measure. Recommended.
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on 12 November 2002
I loved this book. Jeremy Paxmen has written an extremly critical yet at times very funny analysis of what it is to be British. I would advise anyone to read this for a true insight into nationalism and patriotism.
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on 8 February 2017
Excellnet
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on 15 March 2010
Some really good and thought provoking ideas and the book started well, but it reminded me of some history programmes you see on tv, 5 mins of worthwhile information, padded out and repeated in order to fill a half hour slot.
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on 5 February 2000
This book is a real eye opener for an Englishman. It helps you to understand what it means to be English and how our history makes us the kind of society we are today.
It s also a great read, very well written.
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on 13 February 2000
This book is the first I have read that accurately analyses who the English are, where they have come from and where they are going. Paxman pulls apart all stereotypes associated with the English and gives their background and how they fit into the real world. If you want a well researched and amusing overview of the English, buy this book now!
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on 22 March 2000
This is an interesting concept. It is well-written and humorous, but Paxman gets a little bogged-down in historical minutae at times. Some passages were rather boring.
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